The foundation of a solid brand positioning is a thorough understanding of your market. That’s why I start every strategic process with an analysis of your organisation, your clients and your competition. And of the economical, technological and/or cultural powers that influence your market. This phase exists predominantly of a series of in-depth conversations with the business and marketing leaders of your organisation. It also consists of desk research of existing strategic documents and industry publications. With this information I can lay down the base for the next steps in the strategic process. The analysis can, for example, be the input for preparing qualitative research or a strategic workshop.
Because a market analysis happens for the largest part behind a desk, it doesn’t always convey the first-hand sentiments and needs that live in your company or among your target audience. This is why it can be useful to conduct face-to-face interviews or focus groups and obtain some fresh insights directly from the people who interact with your brand. I am experienced in conducting focus groups, which enables me to compile a working method and questionnaire, moderate the focus groups and write the research report. This can save a lot of time and money, compared to working with an external party. All in all, my experience is that these kind of sessions feed into a more ‘streetwise’ brand strategy. What’s more, the obtained insights generate valuable inspiration for a creative brief.
Even when you have enough strategic thinking on the inside, it can be difficult to write an adequate brand positioning. For one thing, because looking at your brand from the outside-in is not always easy. An external view, might help to bring in some fresh perspectives and insights. The other reason is that the compilation of a brand document is often frustrated because different people on different positions have different opinions about the course and identity of your brand. In that case, a strategic workshop is the ideal way to get everyone aligned. These sessions keep the middle between a creative brainstorm and a structured meeting, in which all the parts of a standard brand document are addressed. It is my role to make sure that everyone gets a say and brings in knowledge, but at the same time I incite discussions and play the devil’s advocate. The output of a workshop thus forms the ideal input for writing a brand document.
Regardless whether I work for a start up or established brand, what both have in common is the need for a clear strategic course. So that everyone on the the inside knows in which direction the brand is going. But also to be able to clearly explain all external parties the same brand story. My brand documents generally consist of a deck of some 30 pages that concisely explain your business, ideal customer, competition, USP, vision (usually through Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle), brand promise, brand values and brand personality. As a next step, I can also write a brand manifest – as if you were to publish your brand story as a one-pager in a newspaper. What all my brand documents have in common is that they have a competitive edge and sufficient ambition. Especially bigger organisations have a tendency to water down a strong strategic vision into a bland compromise that seems to define a product category rather than a distinctive brand. A sharp and inspired brand document forms the ideal springboard towards the creative translation of your brand into product development, a (new) visual identity or advertising campaign.
When you are briefing an external agency to develop a creative concept (e.g. a product, identity or campaign), it is of great importance to convey a clear and single-minded vision. If not, there is a substantial chance that you receive something that you doesn’t align with your brand or is not what you need. An adequate briefing at least explains in an unambiguous way, what should be delivered, the commercial and communicative goals, the most important brand and market insights, your brand promise and identity. That’s how a creative brief adds both focus and inspiration to the creative process, and how it should eventually contribute to a creative product that is adequate, distinctive and effective.
Since I have worked as a strategist on creative projects for over 15 years, I know how to manage the creative process and make it as effective as possible. So when an external agency comes up with a creative concept or product, and you are internally struggling to judge it or give it adequate feedback, I can provide an independent pair of eyes to move things in the right direction. For example, I can determine whether the creative concept aligns with your commercial, strategic and communicative goals. Or I can ask the right (additional) questions or moderate an internal discussion, in which everyone is being heard, but clear decisions are also made.